07/22/2020 1:53 pm
Kara Simonson ’06 didn’t know it at the time, but the years she spent at Rockford University prepared her to be a doctor in a pandemic.
She didn’t take any courses on the subject, of course. She wasn’t even learning about medicine at that point.
But Rockford University was the firm foundation of her education that gave her the ability to pivot when she needed to the most.
Known today as Dr. Kara Wada, this Rockford University alum works as an allergist and immunologist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She was just kicking off her busiest season of the year – spring allergies – when the pandemic hit. Her patients still needed help, particularly those whose immune systems were compromised, but clinics everywhere were limiting office visits.
“We went from doing no telemedicine to doing 75 to 80 percent telemedicine,” Dr. Wada said. “I had to get a little more creative in examining my patient. It’s more critical to listen to the patient’s story, and you have to do a good job of establishing a relationship with the human being on the other side of the screen.”
Perhaps surprisingly, making that shift didn’t rely solely on skills she learned in medical school. Rather, she drew from her time at Rockford University, from 2002-2006, when she learned a wide range of subjects in a hands-on and intimate setting.
“It was the breadth of the liberal arts education,” she said. “I wasn’t just preparing for my job as a physician. I was learning all those skills that helped me most during the pandemic.”
In addition to changing the way she connects with patients, Dr. Wada also used her downtime during the pandemic to launch a social media presence. Today, she posts on Instagram as The Crunchy Allergist, where she can connect with a larger community.
“Your Rockford University education is going to prepare you, not only for your first job, but for your third, fourth and fifth jobs out of school,” Dr. Wada said. “It’s given me that skill set, that ability to bob and weave. As I come across new problems, I have the skills to navigate and solve those problems.”
Dr. Wada also has been active in another pressing societal issue for 2020: racism. She recently participated in an event at Ohio State University College of Medicine held by White Coats for Black Lives, a group dedicated to racial justice within the community, in health care settings and within medical education.
“Hundreds of us kneeled together for eight minutes and 46 seconds, then listened to powerful young leaders at the medical school,” she said. “It was so inspirational!”
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